Nuala Cullen: Best of Irish Country Cooking

Nuala Cullen

Green beer not your style?

No need to give up St. Patrick’s Day celebration – turn it into a celebration of Irish food.

And don’t stop with St. Pat. Go on and add Irish into Easter or Monday night dinner or Sunday family lunch.

The Best of Irish Country Cooking: Traditional and Contemporary Recipes (Interlink 2015) from Nuala Cullen is full of lighter, healthier versions of stodgy Irish food. It is worth exploring her cookbook whenever you have a hankering for a bit of Emerald Isle.

The Best of Irish Country Cooking by Nuala CullenEmerald as in Spring Green Soup (p. 12) with sorrel, spinach, nettles and dandelion greens (or a combination of whatever you find) thickened with a little potato and flavored with thyme. It may be easier to find sugar snap peas for Pea Pod Soup (p. 38) flavored with mint or summer savory.

For St. Pat’s, try a warming bowl of Irish Stew (p. 56) made with neck bones or Corned Beef and Cabbage (p. 58), which includes instructions on how to brine with Guiness, saltpeter, and brown sugar. Serve these two with Barm Brack (p. 160) or savory Irish Soda Bread with Onion (p. 163) pictured on the front cover, made with caramelized onion and topped with caraway seeds.

To finish off the meal, try Cherry Mousse (p. 122) in honor of America’s National Cherry Blossom Festival, or Syllabub (p. 126) that frothy, creamy pudding made with a sweet wine. You could also serve Irish Curd Tart (p. 142) a cottage cheese, citrus, and almond tart.

As the weather warms up – but still has a chill in the air – it’s time to cook some of the recipes in The Best of Irish Country Cooking. The photographs by Tony Briscoe and Michael Diggin of the seaside, the forests, and the hills of Ireland, and the recipes, along with the smells coming from your own kitchen, will tempt you to travel to the Emerald Isle this summer.

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread with Onion

Serves 4-8

This version of Irish Soda Bread is especially good with pate.

1 large onion, finely chopped
¼ cup/60 ml olive oil
3-cups/500g white bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
1-teaspoon baking powder
2-½-cups/600 ml buttermilk
2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and grease a baking sheet.

In a heavy pan, cook the onions in a tablespoon of the oil until dark brown and crisp but not burnt. Cool

Sift the flour and salt together. Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon of the buttermilk. Add this, with the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, to the rest of the buttermilk. Add the onions and seeds to the flour. Make a well in the center and add the liquid. With a fork, mix it all together thoroughly, mixing lightly, until you have a fairly smooth texture, but don’t knead.

With floured hands, shape the mixture into a round cake, cut a cross in the top, and transfer to the baking sheet, and bake until the loaf gives a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom, about 40 minutes.

Note: If buttermilk is not available, use fresh milk and 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

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